This article argues that the allegorical interpretations of the Gothic sublime made by materialist critics like Franco Moretti and Judith Halberstam unavoidably reduce Gothic excess and uncanniness to a realist understanding and, thereby, ironically de-materialize Gothic monstrosity by substituting for it a realistic meaning. This essay, instead, advocates a psychoanalytic critical reception that demonstrates how the essential uncanniness of the Gothic novel makes all realistic interpretation falter. Rather than interpreting Frankensteins creature as a condensed figure for proletarian formation or Dracula as an allegory for xenophobia, for instance, this article insists that the Gothic uncanny should be understood as figuring that which can only be viewed figuratively, as figuring that which has no space within a realistic understanding.
This essay addresses the socio-cultural potential of phreno-mesmerism in the mid-nineteenth century and how its good intentions were frustrated by its uncanny discourse. Supporters of phreno-mesmerisms social agency dreamed that the physiological make-up of future generations could be determined by engineering sexual partnerships. But the more earnestly the new hybrid science was advanced as a tool of social change, the more the discourse of phreno-magnetism proved unwieldy. In effect, the discourse represents a double-bind, intertwining sex and gender, essentialism and constructionism, science and the occult, materialism and Gothic. The article focuses of Elliotson‘s enthusiasm for uniting phrenology and mesmerism in his notorious Letter On Mesmeric Phrenology and Materialism (1843).
Becoming-Fungus in Arthur Machen‘s The Hill of Dreams
This paper examines the role fungi play in Arthur Machen‘s Decadent classic The Hill of Dreams (1907), a supernatural novel written in the 1890s. Ostensibly an idiosyncratic topic, the novels concern with these organisms devolves on an inquiry into the nature of life itself, of whether it is the result of a spiritual life-force or a haphazard assemblage of matter. In this way, Machen‘s novel participates in the fin de siècle debates between vitalism and materialism. Rather than attempting to resolve this debate, the novel seizes on tensions inherent in fungal life in order to dissolve the concept of life altogether, to suggest its horrifying unreality.
As Gothic works knock the stuffing out their subject and splatter the remains over the page and screen, their obsessive focus on an economy of decomposing bodies in distress makes a compelling case for the attraction they exert on materialist criticism. A broad and heterogeneous spectrum of left social and cultural critique has always relied on Gothic referents to make descriptive sense of the teratology of life within societies dominated by the bourgeoisie. Marx‘s Capital begins, after all, by seeing the ‘monstrous ungeheure accumulation of commodities’ as the symptom of something gone terribly wrong in liberal political economy.1 What, though, if the Gothic codex is more than simply ornamental language or images added to the otherwise dry bones of philosophical, political, and economic writings and is itself a mode of critical inquiry into capitalist modernity that may also interrogate classical Marxisms precepts and underexplored aspects? If Marxism has depended on Gothic referents to make its point, can Gothic return the favor by thinking through obstacles and potentialities within familiar Marxist claims? In this light, we mean ‘material Gothic’ as something greater than simply a less provocative name for Marxist-inflected readings of Gothic works, and understand it as a project in which Gothic studies can inform and reshape cultural and historical materialism.
This book develops insights into the vexed question of Carter's textual practices through the dusty lens of the Gothic. It argues that European Gothic is vital to illuminating and understanding the tension between politics and aesthetics in Carter's work. The book shows how a more concerted focus on Carter's European literary inheritance sheds light on her particular and perverse engagements with androcentric literary and cultural frameworks. It emblematises the tension between her textual extravagancies and her self-declared 'absolute and committed materialism'. Her firm belief 'that this world is all that there is, and in order to question the nature of reality one must move from a strongly grounded base in what constitutes material reality'. The book examines the fraught relationship between Carter's sexual and textual politics. Exploring the ways in which Carter's work speaks to broader discussions about the Gothic and its representations, the book is especially concerned with analysing her textual engagements with a male-authored strand of European Gothic. This is a dirty lineage that can be mapped from the Marquis de Sade's obsession with desecration and defilement to surrealism's violent dreams of abjection. The book not only situates Carter as part of a European Gothic tradition but theoretically aligns her with what Jane Gallop, in her book on Sade, describes as France's "deconstructive" feminism, daughter of antihumanism.
Frankenstein meets H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’
Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock
being posed from a different perspective, and have been at the heart of the related twenty-first-century philosophical movements variously labelled as new materialism, object-oriented ontology, and speculative realism. Mel Y. Chen summarises this trend when she writes, ‘Throughout the humanities and social sciences, scholars are working through posthumanist understandings of the significance of stuff, objects, commodities, and things, creating a fertile terrain of thought about object life’ (5). Theorists farming this fertile terrain, including Graham Harman, Ian
Commodification, corporeality and paranormal romance in Angela Carter’s beast tales
desire, emancipated and enhanced by immersion into and return from the non-human – a liberation not only from patriarchy but also from the capitalist commodification of those bodies. The plunge into chaos through transformation emancipates one from the past and enables the construction of future projects. Carter's humanist materialism acknowledges the embodied, fleshly, yet autonomous nature of human consciousness, with all its ‘blood and mire’, and re-evaluates the price of love.
Graphic children’s texts and the twenty-first-century monster
‘fragmented and permeable’ subjectivity that Kelly Hurley, in The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle (1996), defines as the hallmarks of the genre (3). The conclusion of Frank was a Monster does not reconstitute its protagonist’s body. As his performance comes to an end, Frank’s decapitated and deflated skull somehow murmurs to itself, ‘I might be a monster, but man can I dance!’ – signifying that decomposition is a small price to pay for aesthetic expression. Both front and back fly-leaves show the otherwise empty stage floor
The Frankenstein Complex: when the text is more than a text
Dennis R. Cutchins and Dennis R. Perry
terms of the new object-oriented materialism theory, noting how Frankenstein tales tend to demolish human exceptionalism.
Art and comic adaptations of Frankenstein ( Part IV ) often become metaphors for the monster’s creation itself from used body parts. Kate Newell ( Chapter 14 ) suggests the term ‘repurposing’ to describe how illustrations for various editions of Shelley’s novel are sometimes recycled or recaptioned – like old body parts – and then applied to different moments in the book. She nicely defines how the choice and use of
Frankenstein, neo-Victorian fiction, and the palimpsestuous literary past
Sanders, Julie. Adaptation and Appropriation . New York: Routledge, 2006.
Scholes, Robert. ‘Is There a Fish in This Text?’ College English 46.7 (1984): 653–664.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus . 1818. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Shiller, Dana. ‘The Redemptive Past in the Neo-Victorian Novel.’ Studies in the Novel 29.4 (1997): 538–560.
Tilley, Christopher. ‘Materialism and an Archaeology of Dissonance.’ Interpretive Archaeology